A Guide to Day Trips from Kyoto

Kyoto, with its timeless charm and cultural richness, is a city that captivates the hearts of every traveler. Yet, just beyond its historic streets lie day trip destinations that promise to enhance your adventures in Japan. These locations are also extremely easy to access from Kyoto, thanks to efficient transportation options that make the journey as enjoyable as the destination.

Nara: A Stroll Amongst Sacred Deer

It’s just a short train ride to Nara, a city steeped in history and adorned with natural wonders. Nara Park in particular, home to a myriad of friendly deer, offers an enchanting welcome. These sacred animals roam freely, creating a unique atmosphere as you stroll through the park–you can even offer them a snack. These deer are also known for bowing back to visitors who lower their heads. Other locations that can’t be missed include Todai-ji Temple, housing the iconic Great Buddha, and Kasuga Taisha, an elegant Shinto shrine surrounded by mystical lanterns. The approximately 45-minute train journey from Kyoto to Nara is a breeze, allowing you to make the most of your day.

Osaka: Foodie Delights and Urban Sights

For a taste of vibrant urban life, hop on a train to Osaka, the culinary capital of Japan. Osaka’s food scene is renowned, especially for its street food. Be sure to try takoyaki (octopus balls) and okonomiyaki (Japanese savory pancakes) at local markets. Beyond the gastronomic delights, you can also explore Osaka Castle, an impressive symbol of the city’s historical significance, and Umeda Sky Building for panoramic views. You can reach Osaka via many different train lines from Kyoto, arriving in just under an hour.

Uji: Tea Fields and Ancient Temples

It’s a serene journey to Uji, a picturesque town just southeast of Kyoto, renowned for its tea production. Stroll across Uji Bridge and along the Uji River, and enjoy the tranquility of this tea-centric haven. Byodo-in Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and Ujigami Shrine, one of Japan’s oldest Shinto shrines, are both beautiful locations that offer glimpses into the town’s rich cultural heritage. You can reach Uji from Kyoto in about 30 minutes.

Kurama and Kibune: Tranquil Mountain Retreat

For an escape into nature, head to the mountains of Kurama and Kibune, just north of Kyoto. Kurama-dera Temple, perched atop Mount Kurama, is a peaceful temple, but you’ll want to bring good walking shoes to reach it. Nestled in a forested valley, Kifune Shrine is a beautiful, quiet shrine with a series of red torii gates that look especially magical if you can catch them on a snowy day in winter. You can take a leisurely hike through this area in the verdant mountains, breathing in the crisp mountain air and enjoying the peaceful surroundings. You can reach Kifune or Kurama in about 30 minutes by train from Demachiyanagi Station in Kyoto.

As you get ready to explore these neighboring treasures, make sure that you check transportation schedules in advance to optimize your time, and don’t shy away from early starts to make the most of each excursion.

Kyoto’s an incredible location, but it’s also surrounded by some easily-reachable locations that are absolutely worth a visit, too, no matter the flavor of travel you’re looking for.

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